Infections of the novel coronavirus are spreading in Central and South America and in Africa. The international community is urged to work together to accelerate efforts to assist countries whose health and medical infrastructure is fragile.
The total number of people infected with the virus worldwide has exceeded 10 million. In Central and South America, infections have increased particularly in emerging countries such as Brazil and Mexico and neighboring developing nations. The coronavirus outbreak also shows no signs of slowing in South Africa.
In developing countries, many people live in small residences, and many areas have poor sanitation. Although restrictions have been imposed on going out, some countries have resumed economic activities before infections have been brought under control. Situations in which people are forced to prioritize the necessities of their daily lives might spark the spread of the virus.
Even though the number of infections is declining in developed countries, the virus could spread again if the epidemic continues in developing countries. Each country needs to expand assistance to developing countries while implementing domestic measures.
The Japanese government has earmarked about ¥84 billion in a supplementary budget for this fiscal year to support developing countries. It has started providing about 100 countries with ambulances and diagnostic imaging equipment, among other things, as grant aid.
The provision of medical equipment is effective not only in strengthening the current testing and treatment systems, but also in developing medical infrastructure for the future. It is essential to provide detailed assistance based on requests from countries receiving the aid.
As the confrontation between the United States and China deepens, Japan is urged to play a role in leading international cooperation.
Even though pharmaceutical companies in some countries may successfully develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs, it is feared that the vaccines and drugs will not be widely used in developing countries as their patent fees are likely to be high. The Japanese government should create a system that will enable developing countries to obtain such vaccines and drugs at affordable prices, through cooperation among the Group of Seven developed countries and other frameworks.
The government has decided to contribute about $300 million to Gavi, an international organization that supports vaccinations in developing countries. Gavi offers vaccines to developing countries at affordable prices, using funds from donor countries. It also helps developing countries obtain cold storage equipment, protective gear for medical workers and other supplies.
After a vaccine for the virus is developed, how to have it widely used will become a challenge. It is highly significant that the international community will work together to prepare for a system enabling prompt vaccinations.
The important thing is to steadily improve the level of health and medical services in developing countries rather than just providing them with emergency support to fight the virus.
In Africa and elsewhere, even handwashing, which is effective in preventing infectious diseases, is not easy due to a shortage of clean water. Infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, are also serious in such countries.
Japan has been highly regarded for its aid such as drilling wells in deserts and providing insect-repellent mosquito nets. It is crucial for the nation to make efforts for the long term by taking advantage of its technological capabilities and expertise.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 30, 2020.